How the War in Iraq Gave Us ObamaCare



Did the war in Iraq make way for ObamaCare? The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein links the biggest foreign policy blunder of the Bush administration to the biggest domestic policy blunder of the Obama presidency:

In 2004, with the memory of the defeat of the Clinton health care plan still fresh enough in people's minds, the idea of a Democratic president passing universal health care legislation would have seemed like a distant liberal fantasy.

In fact, in the Democratic primary, even Howard Dean's health care proposal (that mostly built on existing government programs) was tame by today's standards.But by 2006, with sectarian violence escalating in Iraq, President Bush's approval rating had cratered and Democrats were able to take over both chambers of Congress in an election that was largely a backlash against the war. Exit polls showed that 56 percent of Americans who voted in that year's midterm elections opposed the Iraq War—and 80 percent of that group voted for Democrats.

Suddenly, there was a change in what seemed politically possible. In 2007, as the Democratic presidential primary season got under way, emboldened liberal activists were able to convince all of the top contenders to release universal health care plans.

The 2008 economic collapse may have given the final boost to Obama's candidacy, but Americans' disillusionment with the Iraq War created the foundation for his call for change. Though there was little in the way of policy differences between Obama and his rivals, led by Hillary Clinton, one of the most significant factors that set him apart was that he had opposed the Iraq War from the beginning.

This allowed him to argue to voters that what he lacked in experience he made up for in judgment—an argument that he'd continue to make in the general election against Republican Sen. John McCain.On top of Obama's 2008 victory, congressional Democrats were able to build on their gains from 2006, so that once all the votes were counted (and Sen. Arlen Specter defected) they had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. It was only the lopsided nature of the majorities that allowed a plan as ambitious as Obamacare to become law.

He goes on, but the gist is that disillusionment with Iraq caused a liberal backlash that made a large-scale health care. I'm not sure I would go quite as far as Klein, but it's a compelling, provocative argument.

What I'd add is that the Bush-era focus on foreign policy, and on defending a war that steadily decreased in popularity, allowed the Republicans to coalesce around a wartime agenda that had little need for coherent domestic policy. The GOP invested an awful lot of energy in defending President Bush and the war in Iraq, and very little in innovative domestic policy ideas. Health policy wasn't exactly ignored, but it wasn't a major priority. There was no sustained push for market-driven reforms: Indeed, the Bush administration's biggest health care push was an unfunded expansion of Medicare.

So when the time came to debate ObamaCare, Republicans showed up with nothing to offer except partisan opposition. ObamaCare is such a mess that the just-say-no approach almost worked. But the party's efforts were almost certainly hampered by the fact that the bulk of the GOP had essentially ignored the details of health policy since the last time they united to oppose a Democratic president's health care overhaul, the HillaryCare fight of the 1990s.

Republicans had used much of that time to defend a particular war of choice and an interventionist foreign policy outlook to support it. Democrats, on the other hand, had used the long interim period between health policy battles to build a huge policy advocacy infrastructure. They had intellectual support for a mandate-and-regulate style overhaul; they also had a just-barely-large-enough political coalition to support the push.

Basically, Republicans made war a policy priority at the expense of domestic policy, health care in particular. So when it came time to focus on domestic priorities, Republicans weren't terribly well prepared. 

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  1. Without Bush, Obama would not have been possible.

    1. I blame Bush

    2. The GOP was talking permanent majority after retaining the House, Senate, and Oval Office in 2004.

      1. Kind of like how Team Donkey was talking permanent majority after 2008.

        1. damn your faster fingers

      2. and the Dems did likewise after ’08.

    3. I think that’s probably true.

      Republicans might have been better off if Al Gore had won.

      1. maybe but can you say the same about teh country?

        1. Uh, yeah. The country would have been better off if Gore had been elected. There would have been a big to-do about some neutered, watered down environmental bill and then we could have continued business as usual. No war. No Obamacare.

          1. you sure about no war? Would Gore have just sent a strong memo after 9/11? Even the Dems had a boner for blowing up someone.

            1. Well, no war in Iraq anyway. That was quite the distraction.

              1. I wouldn’t be too sure of that. The entirety of the Clinton administration was spent chasing WMD with UN inspectors. Bill declared ‘regime change’ US policy toward Saddam. The files are full of every Dem of the day thundering about the presence of nasty weapons and the need to do something about them. Maybe there would have been no Iraq but it’s not that sure a thing.

                1. Yeah, the issue with American foreign policy is that it’s not partisan, it’s bipartisan. Which as we all know, is when the Stupid Party and the Evil Party get together to do something that is both Stupid and Evil.

              2. jesus you’ve learned nothing from Obama.

          2. I like your fantasy world.

  2. Republicans – politiPWND

  3. War is the health of the State!

  4. As bad as the individual mandate is, it is 1/100th the “health care takeover” that single payer (Hillarycare) would be.

    1. and yet, Obama is not much more than a backdoor to single payer.

    2. I don’t recall the specifics, but the Wiki summary makes HillaryCare sound not too much different than ObamaCare, and certainly not single payer:

      The Clinton health plan required each US citizen and permanent resident alien to become enrolled in a qualified health plan and forbade their disenrollment until covered by another plan. It listed minimum coverages and maximum annual out-of-pocket expenses for each plan. It proposed the establishment of corporate “regional alliances” of health providers to be subject to a fee-for-service schedule. People below a certain set income level were to pay nothing.


  5. disillusionment with Iraq caused a liberal backlash that made a large-scale health care.

    Fragmentary sentences aside, no.

    Aggressive expansion of Presidential power, aggrandisement of power and control at the federal level, out of control spending. These are the legacy of George W Bush, idiot asshole.

    1. It only seems that way because his father was too weak to continue the mission and Clinton pissed away his chance on HillaryCare. But certainly, at least from Johnson on, the ratchet has only turned one way.

  6. “The gist is that disillusionment with Iraq caused a liberal backlash that made a large-scale health care.”

    This would make more sense to me if ObamaCare had been popular, but there’s this libertarian guy at Reason that keeps telling me it wasn’t, isn’t, and may continue to become less so…



    1. And the idea that the 08 election was about Iraq and not about the economy is one hell of a fantasy. McCain was ahead in the polls right up until the day the banks collapsed.

      1. I love this fucking trope that Obama was against the war from the beginning.

        In the fucking beginning he wasn’t in an elected office to do shit about shit!

      2. People in the Democratic Party were especially sick of the Iraq War.

        That’s why they picked Obama and not Hillary.

        Obama had spoken out against the war, and Hillary supported it.

        Why they voted for Obama instead of Hillary and why they voted for Obama instead of McCain could very well have been for different reasons, but there was a substantial part of the independent vote that was sick to death of Iraq and the WoT.

        1. The polls showed not enough to get Obama over the top. If the election had happened in early September, Obama would not have won. It wasn’t Iraq, it was the financial collapse and McCain’s jackass response to it.

          1. Yep. McCain was a dumbass. He could do nothing as one Senator out of 100, but everything as one candidate of two. Yet for some reason, he ran back to the Senate. Of course, I believe that securing the party nomination ought to require resignation from any other elected office. If nothing else, it would make them sit out and run as the non-incumbent for their old office.

          2. Most polling outfits had Obama ahead for almost the entire election season, with McCain tying or inching ahead a couple of brief times.

            1. My recollection is that the polls showed McCain with a slight lead after the party conventions, which is when the tickets are set.

              He lost that lead running back to DC to throw his weight behind TARP, which was opposed by a sizable majority, and a big majority of Republicans.

              Still, recollection is a funny thing; I could be wrong.

      3. If McCain was ever ahead in the polls, he certainly wasn’t once he picked Palin.

    2. But the liberal backlash gave the Dems a large enough majority that they didn’t have to care what was popular.

      1. But even then, they wouldn’t have been able to do it absent the dirty conviction of Stevens and the outright fraud in Minnesota and Washington. The Democrats basically won every close election in the 00s. Every single time it was within a few thousand votes, they won. Statistically that should never happen. But when you have a giant vote fraud machine, it can.

        1. Prove it or shut up.

          1. Tony thinks he’s in charge of what other people say, now?

            1. Tony’s ALWAYS thought he should be in charge of what people say.

            2. He doesn’t have to listen to me, and probably won’t.

              Actually I like that Republicans are in a state of factlessness and denial. As long as their response to increasing losses in elections is mere despair instead of violence.

              1. Tony, then why is it that every time an election is within a thousand votes, the Dem always wins? Who do you explain that happening? Statistically in an election that close each side ought to win about the same number of times. But the Dems always win and have won every single close Congressional election for going on ten years now.

                Provide an explanation for that or shut up.

                1. I don’t know if that’s true. Can you link me to something demonstrating your claim?

                2. “Tony, then why is it that every time an election is within a thousand votes, the Dem always wins?”

                  Not always! Florida in 2000, for example.

                  Is there really a large enough sample size to back up a claim either way?

                  1. 2000 would be out of his 10 year window. Don’t forget how far into this century we are.

      2. But the liberal backlash gave the Dems a large enough majority that they didn’t have to care what was popular.


    3. It wasn’t popular. That’s the point. The backloash gave the Democrats the opportunity to do something they had been slavering to do for decades : pass universal health care. Whatever the public liked it or not.

  7. You can draw a lot of causation lines to Obamacare. Had there not been effectively stolen Senate Elections in Washington, Minnesota and Alaska, the Dems would have never had 60 votes and Obamacare would have died just like Hillary care.

    Think about it. Liberals in the justice department committed misconduct to obtain a wrongful conviction of Ted Stevens which then allowed Mich Belich, a Democrat to win election to Stevens seat, something that would have never happened without the wrongful conviction.

    1. You do realize Stevens’s indictment and conviction took place before Obama was elected, and Obama’s attorney general is the one who got them voided? I’ll grant that I don’t know the political philosophies of the original prosecutors and federal grand jury, but apparently you do?

      1. The misconduct was done by career prosecutors. And yes they were all liberals. They used their position in the justice department to steal a senate seat. That is what liberals do Tony. If you don’t like those flees, maybe you shouldn’t lie with such dogs.

        1. Care to provide evidence they were liberals? Maybe they were. And government corruption in that case was uncovered.

          But I get the feeling your coffee table is a liberal when you stub your toe on it.

          1. No Tony, the judge called for the dismissal of the people involved. And of course nothing happened to them because Holder knew they were doing exactly what they were supposed to do.

            And the head of the public integrity section who was responsible for the prosecution is a guy named William Welch. He is a Democrat from Mass who later went on to spearhead Obama’s prosecution of leakers. He is a first class Dem hack.


            They were liberals and they stole a Senate seat and prosecuted an innocent man.

            1. It sucks for Stevens that he was the victim of proprietorial misconduct, but nobody stole anything, as Begich was legitimately elected. Conspiracy theories are fun, but you gotta prove your case.

              1. prosecutorial* Damn spellcheck.

              2. nobody stole anything

                tell that to Norm Coleman

              3. He was only elected because Stevens was indicted. Had he not been indicted, Belich never wins. Using proprietorial misconduct to indict the incumbent, is called stealing an election.

    2. You can draw a lot of causation lines to Obamacare.

      Yes. And the biggest one by far is that health care costs/health insurance costs are out of control. Stir that in with a tanked economy, and…Obamacare.

      Trying to tie this all back to Iraq is enormously stupid.

      DISCLAIMER: Not claiming that Obamacare solves the cost spiral issue. Just saying that its existence leads to Washingtonian “solutions”.

  8. Actually, I think Bush may have contributed something to making ObamaCare possible by way of his prescription drug benefit.

    The opponents in the last few presidential elections seem to run hard on the idea that they’re not really much different from each other.

    After Bush’s prescription drug benefit…being pushed through Congress by Republicans…

    “The White House released budget figures yesterday indicating that the new Medicare prescription drug benefit will cost more than $1.2 trillion in the coming decade, a much higher price tag than President Bush suggested when he narrowly won passage of the law in late 2003.”


    It was hard to draw a sharp distinction between what Obama might do on healthcare and what being a Republican was all about.

    Hell, the Democrats are still defending the stupid things Obama does by countering that Bush did them, too.

    1. Except Bush didn’t see the need to pay for any of his programs.

      1. And Obama does?

        Fuck you’re stupid.

          1. Fuck you’re stupid.

            Tony|3.21.13 @ 11:40AM|#

            Uh, yes?

            At least he admits it.

          2. Hahahahahahahahahaha

            You really are that stupid.

            Just last week you were arguing that Obama paying for shit using deficits and running up the debt wasn’t a big deal. Now you’re saying it is.

            And here’s a fucking news flash: Raising the rates of the top earners won’t bring in shit for money. The majority of that “lost” revenue comes from the poor and middle class (from Bush’s tax cuts to the tune of $780B. from Obama’s tax cuts I haven’t seen the numbers yet, but since those rates stayed the same we’ll assume it’s another $780B.)

            So not only do you support Obama DOING EXACTLY WHAT BUSH DID, you hate poor and middle class people enough that you want to raise their taxes to pay for all of the goodies you think government should give out.

            Fuck you are a disgusting demfag.

            1. I’m saying that unlike Bush’s prescription drug program (and his wars for that matter), Obama’s healthcare plan contained pay-fors. Most significantly cuts in Medicare payment rates that Republicans bludgeoned Democrats over in two elections.

              1. Obama’s healthcare plan contained pay-fors.

                And yet current projections still have it running a net loss of $1TT over the next 10 years.

              2. Oh, so you think accounting gimmicks are ways to pay for stuff.

                I sure hope you don’t own a business and try to do that when it comes to your taxes. The IRS, not to mention the FBI, doesn’t look to favorably on people who try to cook the books.

      2. “Except Bush didn’t see the need to pay for any of his programs.”

        Hell, the Democrats are still defending the stupid things Obama does by countering that Bush did them, too.

      3. Neither does Obama, he just feels the need to lie about it.

    2. Yep, even with two wars Bush still came up with the prescription drug plan. Without 9/11 he might have also come up with his version of Obama care or the Romnie version.

      And then there is “No Child Left Behind”. What else would Bush have come up with if he had not been distracted by the Afghanistan and Iraq war.

      1. how the warfare state leads the welfare state, going all the way back to the civil war eventually leading to social security, tons of aging veterans and widows during the progressive era already on the federal payroll.

  9. BTW, the oft-quoted-in-this-space Examiner is kind of going out of bidness. They will have some sort of stupid web site by June and I think I heard they will be publishing a weekly paper.

  10. Hell, the Democrats are still defending the stupid things Obama does by countering that Bush did them, too.

    And along comes Tony to prove it less than a minute later!

  11. I thought global warming caused Obamacare.

    As well as increased sales of the GTA series, and the dearth of new Star Wars flims.

  12. Sorry, but I just don’t think you can blame Bush for OCare, even indirectly. Nice try, though. Should sell well on the cocktail party circuit.

  13. Obama’s healthcare plan contained pay-fors. Most significantly cuts in Medicare payment rates


    Moving IOUs from one pocket to another doesn’t actually count as “paying” for anything.

  14. OT: http://www.theonion.com/articl…../?ref=auto

    Funny article, but notice the words that do not appear.

  15. There was no sustained push for market-driven reforms: Indeed, the Bush administration’s biggest health care push was an unfunded expansion of Medicare.

    Which included the creation of HSAs. Perhaps not a complete solution, but I am rather convinced that the law did speed up the movement towards companies offering high deductible plans.

  16. All I know is that John Brennan by upholding Obamacare has singlehandedly doomed this country to oblivion.

  17. He is completely correct.

    The PPACA was never ever popular in itself. It passed by the skin of it’s teeth.

    What happened was that the Democrats seized the moment after 2009 to push through their long-awaited dream of universal healthcare. It wasn’t because it was politically popular. It wasn’t because they ran on it. They did it because THEY COULD, they always wanted to, and they knew they wouldn’t get another chance like it for a long time.

    And the ENTIRE reason they had the majority to push it through was because of the Iraq War. They would never have had both houses and the White House if not for Iraq.

  18. Oh look, Suderman blaming Republicans for Obamacare again.

    Why doesn’t he blame John Kerry for sucking so bad? If Kerry won in 2004, then BO wouldn’t have run in 2008.

    Why doesn’t he blame the Elian Gonzalez abducters from Bill Clinton’s DOJ? Without that Gore almost certainly wins Florida in 2000 and the White House.

    Nope, only Republicans need apply for Suderman’s blame. Why? Damned if I know.

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